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We can’t stress enough what a wonderful family destination Burma is. Sure, it has its detractors like any other place, but we’ve never met a family who hasn’t come away enchanted by its wonderful people, beautiful sights and sense of adventure. If you need any more convincing, just read our recent blog post on why you absolutely should take your kids to Burma.
But what about the practical aspects of travel in Burma? What should you expect? Here, I hope to answer a few of those questions – and if there’s an aspect of family travel that you’d particularly like to see covered, don’t hesitate to drop us a line to let us know.
Transport can be a pleasure and a pain in Burma. Taxis rarely have seatbelts, and long-distance public transport leaves much to be desired. For travelling as a family, we recommend mixing it up: use planes for long distances, pre-booked private cars for mid-length journeys, and local transport to explore the destinations you visit.
Luckily, Burma has a fantastic array of interesting transportation options, ranging from horse-drawn and ox-drawn carts to colonial-style cruise boats, traditional longtail boats, local trains, mountain bikes, kayaks and trishaws – all of which can turn an ordinary sightseeing experience into an adventure.
It is true that prices in Burma are higher than in neighbouring Asian countries, and you will need to fork out more for hotels, activities, and domestic flights than you might expect in the developing world – but prices are still cheap by Western standards.
As a rule of thumb, prices in Burma are considerably higher than in Thailand or Vietnam, but considerably lower than in Japan, North America or Western Europe. Think Eastern Europe and you’ve got a good ballpark estimate. In cities such as Mandalay or Yangon you can expect lower prices than in more rural destinations like Inle Lake or Bagan – and you’ll find things become more expensive still the more remote you get.
As with any foreign country, your experience of the food in Burma will depend on how adventurous your children are. In Burma, tolerable Western-style options are sometimes more difficult to find than in neighbouring Southeast Asian countries, but it’s certainly nothing to worry too much about. In most of the destinations you’re likely to travel to you won’t have any difficulty locating a pizza, pasta, omelette or chips – and even if you can’t, there’s always good old, unobjectionable white rice to fall back on.
Furthermore, walking through the food markets can be an exciting experience for kids – especially when the locals insist on plying them with cakes and sweets, as they are wont to do in Burma. There are also all kinds of exotic fruits to try, opening up a world of new taste experiences for little mouths.
A word to the wise: avoid tap water or drinks with ice in them, and buy whole fruit where possible to reduce the possibility of contamination. Burmese food is one of the least spicy Asian cuisines, but if your children are sensitive to heat it can pay to ask restaurants to hold the chilli.
As Burma’s tourism industry is still kicking into gear, there are fewer family-orientated options here than in many countries. Don’t let this put you off though – there are far too many other benefits for that.
As we discussed in a recent post, the lack of mass tourism to Burma means that tourists (and especially their children) are still a novelty, and the local people are so unfailingly affable that you’ll be impeccably looked after wherever you go.
In any case, to say that family accommodation doesn’t exist in Burma is an exaggeration. Family rooms or adjoining rooms are rare, but higher-end (four- and five-star) hotels cater well to families, and more or less any hotel in Burma will be able to provide you with a cot (for the under-twos) or a mattress (for older children). There are also triple rooms (double + single) available in some hotels – so with a little planning you will have no trouble finding appropriate accommodation for your family.
For more in-depth advice on travelling with children in Burma, don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of our experts for a chat. We also have more information on family travel in the family section of our blog, and a variety of sample itineraries on our website.